University of Sydney Students' Representative Council
The University of Sydney Students' Representative Council (SRC) is the representative body for undergraduate students at the University of Sydney.
The SRC is governed by the Council, which consists of 33 Representatives elected annually by undergraduate students. The Council meets once a month. It is the supreme decision-making body in the SRC.
The Executive of the SRC is elected annually by the Council, and consists of the President, Vice-President, General Secretary, and five general members, elected proportionally out of Council. Meeting weekly, the Executive makes most significant decisions regarding the SRC.
The day-to-day operation of the SRC is generally conducted by paid staff and paid office-bearers, being the President (directly elected by students), the General Secretary, the Education Officer(s), and Women's Officer(s).
Annual elections are held in September each year, to elect the Council, the President, 7 NUS delegates, and the editors of Honi Soit, the student newspaper. Unlike most student organisations, other office-bearers are elected by the Council, and not directly by students. All undergraduate students have a right to vote in annual elections.
Approximately 4500 students vote each year.
In 1888 the establishment of the Sydney University Undergraduate Association marked the first sign of organised student government on the campus of Sydney University. The Women's Undergraduate Association was formed in 1899 and separate organisations for male and female evening students were to form some years later. In 1929 the four associations agreed to rationalize the governing of the student body, and the Students' Representative Council was established to represent all undergraduates. The first President of the S.R.C. was J. M. Gosper. The 1930/31 Annual Report acknowledges that it is 'largely to the enthusiasm and organising abilities of J. M. Gosper that the Council owes its origins.'
Student government was initially concerned primarily with gaining a student voice within the official University hierarchy, and promoting student interests within the University environment. However, student leaders soon became aware of their influence within the wider community, and the scope of student politics extended to include issues of broader social and political significance. At various times student activism has been of considerable importance in moulding public opinion in Australia on issues as diverse as apartheid, the death penalty, censorship, conscription and tertiary fees.
Honi Soit is the SRC's official journal and was first published in 1929. Its longevity is perhaps unintended, as the SRC's Annual Report expressed 'doubt as to whether any useful purpose could be served by the continuation of Honi Soit' and the publication was maintained the following year on an 'experimental basis.'
Past SRC Presidents
Prominent former Presidents of the Sydney SRC include a Prime Minister of Australia, Cabinet Ministers, and Members of Parliaments, State and Federal, Justices of the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court, including a Chief Justice of New South Wales and a Court of Appeal President. Presidents of the SRC have regularly proceeded to become Presidents of the National Union of Students, with the 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2011 Presidents being subsequently elected to the peak office in NUS.
The SRC focuses its work on lobbying the University to uphold student rights and maintain fair and accessible education, rather than directly providing services. This sets it apart from the University of Sydney Union, which administers Clubs and Societies, provides food services, and runs Manning House, and the Holme and Wentworth buildings. The SRC does exercise control over certain student services: its caseworkers give free advice on legal issues, Centrelink, and conflicts between students and the University administration, and it runs a second-hand bookshop. It also publishes Honi Soit, Australia's only remaining weekly student newspaper, as well as Growing Strong, the Women's handbook and the Orientation Handbook.
The SRC is also home to broader political campaigns organised around its mass-member collectives, which are highly involved in the movements for free speech, free education, women's and queer liberation and compulsory student unionism. It has collectives in the areas of Education, Women's, Queer, Environment, Humanitarian Aid and Anti-Racism, and co-ordinates its activism with the National Union of Students.
From the mid-1960s the SRC has been at the centre of student activism in Australia. Most activist groupings in the National Union of Students have a presence at Sydney University, such as National Labor Students, Socialist Alternative, Centre Unity (Labor Right), the Australian Greens, Grassroots Left and the Liberals.
Since 2000 the SRC has been controlled by what is now National Labor Students (formerly the National Organisation of Labor Students), the student arm of Labor's Socialist Left. Prior to that, from the late 1980s until 1997, the SRC was controlled by the Left Alliance, a former NUS faction made up of a coalition of students to the left of Labor such as Socialist Alternative and Grassroots Left-style groupings such as the Australian Greens, anarchists, queer activists, environmentalists, and Solidarity formerly the International Socialist Organisation. Labor Party affiliated factions dominated the SRC presidency from 1998 to 2014. In recent years Labor's hold on power was challenged by independent/non affiliated alliances, internal conflicts within established labor factions (including mass resignations from labor left factions) and the emergence of the Grassroots left. Grassroots Left, which quickly developed into an national NUS faction with a presence on several campuses, can be seen as a revival of Left Alliance, focusing on developing activist tendencies, non-hierarchical organising, and the non-authoritarian left.
- P. Graham, SRC Electoral Officer 2013